American Nightingale

American Nightingale

The Story of Frances Slanger, Forgotten Heroine of Normandy

Book - 2004
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Of the 350,000 American women in uniform during World War II, none instilled more hope in American GIs than Frances Slanger. In Army fatigues and helmet she splashed ashore with the first nurses to hit the Normandy beach in June 1944. Later, from a storm-whipped tent amid the thud of artillery shells, she wrote a letter to Stars and Stripes newspaper that would stir the souls of thousands of weary soldiers. Hundreds wrote heartfelt responses, praising Slanger and her fellow nurses and honoring her humility and patriotism. But Frances Slanger never got to read such praise. She was dead, killed the very next day when German troops shelled her field hospital, the first American nurse to die in Europe after the landing at Normandy.

Frances Slanger was a Jewish fruit-peddler's daughter who survived a chilling childhood in World War I-torn Poland and immigrated to America at age seven. Inspired by memories of her bitter past and a Nazi-threatened future, she defied her parents' wishes by becoming a nurse and joining the military. A woman of great integrity and courage, she was also a passionate writer and keeper of chapbooks. This is the story of her too brief life.

Publisher: New York : Atria Books, c2004.
Edition: 1st Atria Books hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9780743477581
Branch Call Number: BIO SLANGER F. Welch 2004
Characteristics: xi, 308 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.


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Mar 03, 2018

After landing on Utah Beach on D+4, she was killed during an artillery barrage outside Elsenborn, Belgium, on October 21, 1944. Bob Welch delivers the life and death of Army nurse 2LT Frances Y. Slanger by weaving her early life from Lødz and Boston with narratives of World War II. Welch is a master at the craft of writing. Slanger also wanted to be a writer, but always struggled with English. Her incessant scribbling got better and she poured her heart into a letter to "Stars and Stripes" that was granted the front page by editors who did not know that she was dead.

The story came to Bob Welch in December 2000 when he was a columnist for the "Register-Guard" in Eugene, Oregon. A reader had found a short biography of Slanger and asked Welch to pursue her story. He did. He got a call from Eugene resident Sallylou Cummings who had served with Slanger. She was then 82. The Greatest Generation was slipping away and Welch made one of the last grasps for it. He succeeded admirably.

Welch's biography of Frances Y. Slanger is both warm and objective. He brings her to life. She was an otherwise small person who had one great moment. Ultimately, we all are or Shelley would not have written “Ozymandias.” But Frances Slanger was also an individual representative sample from the self-generating process that is America. Not only has that system generated its own power, it generates selves. Born Freidel Yachet Schlanger, she remade herself according to an inner image that too few others in her life shared. Parents, teachers, and hospital supervisors were ignorant of her powerful potential energy. Welch found it.


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